The question of whether voters should be required to present an acceptable form of identification (ID) when casting a ballot at a federal election has persisted.
The question of whether voters should be required to present an acceptable form of identification (ID) when casting a ballot at a federal election has persisted, notwithstanding quite exhaustive debate and deliberation in numerous forums.
Arguments advanced in favour of requiring voter ID included the need to:
- protect the integrity of the information contained on the roll
- deter attempts by voters to impersonate another voter
- discourage attempts by a voter to vote more than once.
In 2001, in its report User friendly, not abuser friendly: Report of the inquiry into the integrity of the electoral roll, the Joint Standing Committee of Electoral Matters (JSCEM) concluded that that the introduction of voter identification was not warranted as a measure to deter fraud
But while some consider that the level of alleged electoral fraud is minuscule, others have a much more pessimistic view.
The report of the JSCEM Inquiry into the conduct of the 2001 Federal election addressed proof-of-identity requirements, but focussed on initial enrolment or re-enrolment, not the requirement to produce ID in the normal course of casting a ballot at a polling booth. The Committee recommended ‘that people making a first-time enrolment, those seeking re-enrolment, and those transferring their enrolment details, first be required to provide proof of identity and address, via a driver’s licence or similar.
But evidence to that same JSCEM inquiry highlighted problems with the ready availability of ID among people who are extremely disadvantaged or living in Indigenous communities. Others argued that the alleged difficulties of producing ID are over stated, citing the numbers that attend large sports clubs or present ID to access video stores.
Australians have a history of resistance to the adoption of any kind of universal ID card that can be legally required to be shown in order to access government services or to confirm one’s identity. The arguments against such a card are broadly couched in terms of personal privacy and an aversion to a ‘surveillance state’.